LAKEWOOD — The play is called 437 hide-a-ball. It’s so rare that most of the Columbine Rebels players had never seen it before. But head coach Andy Lowry thought it would be a good week to incorporate it into the game plan just in case they would needed it.
Not only did they need it against second-ranked Chatfield, but it worked to perfection.
On a night when stud running back Bernard McDondle ran for 298 yards and six touchdowns, it was seldom-used Austin Norton who stole the spotlight. The junior running back, after McDondle and others swept to the left side of the formation, took the ball quarterback Michael Tait had left behind a lineman, waited a few seconds and followed tight end Jacen White down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown with 45.6 seconds remaining in the Rebels’ back-and-forth 50-43 victory Oct. 4 at Jeffco Stadium.
“We practiced that all week. We put it in just for this week. We worked on it every single day. It was great execution,” said Norton, who finished with three carries for 75 yards.
Neither team led by more than seven points in this tit-for-tat affair, but it was Columbine (5-1, 1-1 5A Super 6) that came out victorious for the fourth straight year, though it wasn’t easy.
“They’re always a barnburner,” Lowry said of the showdowns with Chatfield. “It’s one of those things that I’m just proud of our kids. They just kept hanging in there.”
The win was much needed for the Rebels, who were coming off a lopsided 49-28 conference-opening loss at Arapahoe a week earlier.
“We knew we had to grow up. Last week was a bad game for us. We weren’t focused. We weren’t connecting,” said McDondle, who scored on runs of 10, 45, 4, 67, 13 and 24 yards. The last three gave Columbine a second-half lead only to watch Chatfield match the score. “We worked hard at practice. When it’s a rough week, it’s a good week. It was a rough week. It paid off.”
Chatfield (5-1, 1-1), off to its best start in four years, was looking for more than a moral victory. It hasn’t beaten the Rebels since starting 5-0 in 2009.
“We needed to win it,” said Chatfield running back Michael Callahan-Harris, who rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Brendan Murphy rushed for two more scores, and quarterback Kyle Winkler connected with Brandon Zanier for a 5-yard TD in the second quarter.
Callahan-Harris’ final touchdown — a 12-yard jaunt — pulled the Chargers to within 43-42 with 2 minutes, 34 seconds remaining. Then Winkler hit Jahrel Olson for a 2-point conversion that looked like it might give Chatfield the win, but the Rebels had other ideas.
Columbine’s trickery was something that worried Chatfield head coach Bret McGatlin. He figured something was coming, but he wasn’t sure what.
“It’s a play they’ve ran in the past. We hadn’t seen it in a while,” McGatlin said. “It was a great call. They caught us.”
Even still, Chatfield, with its high-powered offense, still had a chance. Starting from its own 20, the Chargers got to the Columbine 28 in five plays. But three straight incompletions, which included a holding penalty on the Rebels, ran out the clock with Chatfield stranded at the Columbine 18.
“I knew that it was going to be a good game. I knew that all week long,” McGatlin said. “You watch film on Bernard, and the kid’s amazing. He’s amazing. I knew that it could get scary. I wasn’t expecting that score. I also didn’t think it was going to be a defensive battle by any means.”
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.